Living is the Hard Part

For many years I worked on Skid Row. It is actually where this blog was born. Skid Row is the most disgusting, smelly circle of Hell that most people run past.

But, if you look around, you will find people and beauty that can break your heart. People who do not have regular shelter tend to die sooner. When you are a case manager or involved with this population at all, it’s not surprising to have most of your caseload die. I have outlived so many people that have taught me, taunted me, and now have haunted me.

Rory White portrait of Tommy Jenkins
Tommy Jenkins in his efficiently unit. Photo : Rory White

While I worked there, I made the acquaintance of a world-famous artist and incredible talent. He ran a program teaching homeless people house paint and how to express themselves through art.

most of my clients hadn’t been officially diagnosed by the Department of mental health and we’re not getting the treatment or medication or validation that they needed. Some of them were frightened of this process and didn’t want to be labeled.

Artist. Everybody likes that label. Rory taught so many people how to paint and when there are projects sold then they got a portion of their proceeds. You can see some of their artwork still hanging in businesses and hotels and civic offices throughout Los Angeles. I was flipping through Facebook yesterday and came across this portrait of Mr Jenkins. My heart stopped.

I think of this man everyday. I think of him whenever I watch that show about feet and gnarly toes. I once spent two hours fixing Tommy’s feet when his toenails had grown up and then his big toenail made a square turn and grew across the width of his foot. he could not put on shoes he could not put on socks and he could barely walk. So I sucked it up and put a bandana across my face like I was a bandit. I soaked his feet pulled out a Dremel and clippers and went to town. It was disgusting.

No. Not him or his toes, I was disgusted by the fact that so many other case managers and programs and fully functional adults who were in the area and proclaimed to be advocates and helpful had done absolutely nothing about this man’s feet because they thought it was beneath them. now, fixing his feet didn’t change much for him. He was able to walk around and get around easier but it did not ease his mental illness it did not change his housing situation, although he did get married soon after this.

What it did I was show this man that I was there for him. That it did not matter how strange or time consuming or unconventional the task was, if he asked me for help I would do my best to get it for him. Sometimes that meant just doing it my own self.

One time my oldest daughter had left Play-Doh in the car, I did not know that, well Tommy jumped in my car one day and demanded I drive him somewhere. He was wearing shorts and we were then together in a very hot car. Being southern California, the weather can get really hot and the temperature inside a car can go over a hundred. Mr Jenkins sat on top of the super hot Play-Doh and burned the back of his leg. He made fun of me forever for burning his butt.

As I looked through the website for the artworks continuum that Roy White has put together, I am grieving. My heart hurts.

No, not because I miss the opportunity to be taught by a talented artist, but because I am living in a world without so many of these artists still in it. I am grieving because I am alive due to the fact that I have good medical care and food and shelter and those are the exact reasons so many of these artists are dead.

We often glamorize the mental health of tortured souls of famous artists. Well I think that’s a stupid plan. But what we can do is look for the beauty of every soul we meet, tortured or otherwise.

Darlene, Penny, Carl, and Gary.

Waiting at the Canoga Park police department. Worth it.

And….the computer is down

I’m at the LAPD Canoga Park police station to file a trespassing and harassment and battery report with a freaked out client.

We’ve waited an hour.

I I’m going to say that that was totally worth the wait. We met my officer Hernandez he was very helpful. He explained restraining orders and trespass notices. He called the person I was with down.

Good job.

#2020LACountyHIConference take aways

I’m sitting at this conference in a lovely room with 600 other people (I did 3rd grade math , 10 bodies per table, 40 tables in the room and an overflow room).

This is what I’m taking from the conference… Granted, I’m cranky from spending $24 parking and being turned away from the registration...

Jason Elliott knows his stuff

California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has a Housing and Homelessness office. Jason Elliott is the Sr. Counselor. He is well spoken and has so much information. He has been the best part of the day.

Phil Ansell has a wonderful brain and personality, but don’t let him emcee anymore. He yells into the mic and everyone flinched.

Less glad handing. This is not the Homeless Oscars. Dear gosh, photo ops and high praise are cool but I’m came here to work and get information.

Prevention of homelessness sounds cool and all, but what are your plans? Do we have tools and training?

To the super annoyed lady who was mad that black women were left out of Spa 4’s slides… A men. You’re right.

To the homeless gent who pointed out that alcohol companies don’t take part in the CA recycling refund policy. Wow. I bet nobody has ever pointed that out.

Prop H funds… I’m dissapointed.

It is so easy to tell the difference between the “talkers” and the “walkers”.

I learned very little today. I don’t know that this was worth the $24 o paid in parking.

If you leave your wallet or business cards in your car, the Millennium Biltmore staff will save you.

We need more places to shelter folks.

Friends in Deed in the house!

Hospital discharge doesn’t have any connected housing for homeless exits. The law changed to prevent homeless dumping.

The Governor’s office clearly doesn’t know that Rapid Rehousing is so not rapid. It takes weeks for a check to be written and first a home has to be identified.

See my light across the water…

You can get here.

I love my Supervisor.

Can we discuss how amazeballs Sheila Kuehl is? I just love her, and adore her because she makes change happen for the folks who really need a voice.

The Homeless Scorecard

Sometimes I work with someone who is homeless and it is like playing a game of “Bingo blackout”, where almost every cause or reinforcement of poverty/homelessmess is present.

This is not a fun game…it it the mental checklist I use to sort needs and plan care.

Using this I can see and sort needs and case planning goals:

  • Mental health therapy needs
  • Medical needs
  • Socialization needs
  • Training / job help
  • Therapy referrals needed
  • Budgets and 💰 money management needs
  • Connection to AB 109 and legal resources
  • Referrals to SUD (drug) treatment
  • Regional centers help
  • SSI applications.
  • IHSS connection

What do you think I missed

Ummmm, not on the list

#2020LACountyHIConference , I registered but I’m “not on the list” so I’ve been told to wait in the lobby while everyone has breakfast.

When did I start looking like a bulldog?

I am hoping that the poor planning of this LA County conference isn’t indicative of why we have a homeless crisis.

Mothering While Social Working

Texting After School Care with an update that I might be late.

I. An Army of One (sorry US armed forces), but it feels right to say that.

As a single mom, I’m the transportation and coordinating and some carer for a third grader. Being the more responsible part of her life givers (read, parents) this means she is on better hands with me than her father – but I’m a B average parent at best.

Today I was a little trapped at work and it takes about 40 minutes to get from Northridge to Pacoima. This was my panicked text.

Fun fact; My parking was very wonky but I was on time.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield and Homelessness

 

From Bob Blumenfield’s email updates …

You might recognize a face in the back row

hhrp

Blumenfield Seeks Additional Funds for Homeless Intervention in Emergency Rooms  

On February 18 the City Council passed Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s motion formally requesting funding for his initiative, the Homeless Housing and Recovery Project (HHRP) into the City’s grant application. HHRP is a collaborative pilot program between Providence Tarzana Medical Center and Tarzana Treatment Center that Blumenfield helped initiate, which helps to get homeless folks in emergency rooms needed housing and treatment for both their physical and drug or mental health issues

This program has yielded positive results since its inception early last year; out of the 555 patients screened, 165 were connected to mental health services, 136 obtained emergency housing, and 49 now have a permanent address. Building on this success, additional funds can continue this effort to treat individuals entering emergency rooms who may be more likely to accept help because of the trauma that brought them to the ER.

Blumenfield’s motion requests $422,628 in grant funds from the State’s fund Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) and comes at a critical time. Without additional funds, the pilot program with West Valley hospitals may be discontinued on June 30.

There is no one size fits all solution to the homelessness epidemic and this is one of many ways Councilmember Blumenfield is working to get homeless folks off the street. Read more about Blumenfield’s efforts to reduce homelessness on his website.  If you are interested in getting more involved, consider joining Blumenfield’s BobCAT (Community Action Team) on Homelessness.

 

The Game to Teach You how to Identify and treat homelessness

Learning is fun, and studies have shown that you remember better when you enjoy the process.

Training Game

Several times a day I’m asked to examine someone’s living situation and give a determination of their housing status.

What I know to be true, and my understanding of the federal guidelines of homelessness has been information that’s held only in my head.

My coworkers don’t have a clear guideline. Other departments don’t have a reference point. Other agencies are unclear as to who is homeless and who is housed, and of course there’s always the question of who is the most vulnerable and needs the most help.

So I made a game to help myself tear the definition apart and apply it to situations that I see regularly. I researched the definitions and I looked at everything I could find in Los Angeles, California, and in the United States. Interestingly, the best information I found was from Canada.

I made an amalgam of all of that information as it applies to working with single homeless adults, and how to write a case plan to address their housing issues.

Yesterday we tried it out with my staff and they actually had fun with it and it led to some pretty good conversations.

I am still fine-tuning it, if you would like a copy, please let me know. I have made lots and lots of pieces and I have a couple sets I can send out for free or deliver if you are in the area. All that I ask is for your opinion and feedback.

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